Good morning again.
Can you hear me okay with this microphone like this? Okay, great. It’s great to be here., back at Saint Charles. I was in town this weekend for a wedding out in Pennsylvania.
And when I go to Pennsylvania, I usually stop at a farm.
It’s known as a Catholic worker farm, and it’s something that I’m personally involved in.
And the whole mission behind a Catholic Worker farm is in principle to try to cultivate a return to the land so that we know where our food and where our nourishment comes from and to have that interaction with the city.
So the Catholic Worker Movement in general, served by Dorothy Day and Peter Morin, has has houses of hospitality in cities and farms out in rural areas.
And the interaction between those two kind of creates a microcosm of understanding where we get our food and nourishment and how we can go back to the land to actually cultivate it.
So it’s always great for me to kind of check in on what’s happening at the farm.
And as I was there this weekend, of course, I was thinking about the readings that we’re going to hear this weekend on Good Shepherd Sunday.
And there are lots of sheep and goats at the farm.
So naturally, it was a great place to be, to be meditating upon the scriptures that we just heard.
I think if you’re like me and if I didn’t have, like, say, this farm experience underneath my belt.
Most of us hear these stories of Jesus calling himself the Good Shepherd and talking about sheep.
And we kind of have a sort of a distant type of understanding of what he’s talking about, primarily because we don’t have interactions with sheep.
We don’t know too many people who have a profession of being a shepherd.
So a lot of times we can reduce these gospels into some very kind of quaint imagery of Jesus talking about shepherd and sheep.
At least that’s how I thought for much of my adult life until I got involved in a farm and I specifically was taken this time when I was at the farm about how the gate system works.
Today we hear Jesus say very clearly, I am the Gate. Well, how does a gate work with sheep?
Well, you may think it’s just a gate that opens up and then the sheep come out, but it’s a little bit more of a process.
It’s actually two gates, and you open up the first gate and you then close the gate behind you.
Then you open up the second gate and the sheep are in the other side of that gate.
And this is what allows them not to kind of escape too fast outside of the gate, at the gate, at area.
So there’s kind of this like antechamber in between the two gates.
It prevents a mass mob of sheep or goats just traveling out really fast with no direction.
Trust me, I’ve been there before they had the two gate system and it was quite a massive, quite a spectacle to watch people running around trying to catch sheep because they are very unruly.
So Jesus was on to something. I think about this when Jesus says, I am the Gate.
Because Jesus, in a certain sense, is that antechamber, the space between heaven and earth.
Fully, God. Fully, man. Jesus is the gate because he stands in between here and there.
So what does that mean for our lives? Well, it’s very simple.
At every moment in our life, we’re trying to get from here to there.
Every time we wake up in the morning, we start here and we’re going to end up there when we go to sleep.
So our whole lives are all about getting from here to there.
The problem is, is that we seem to have a hard time knowing how to get from here to there.
A lot of times we would make plans to get from here to there and they don’t work out.
Other times we don’t make plans and then nothing happens.
Or sometimes we make plans that get changed and we end up doing something that we weren’t expecting to do.
But it was greater. So the whole process is getting here to there seems to be kind of like.
Like a crapshoot, right? Not really knowing what is going to happen. So how does that relate to how we lean into Jesus calling himself the gates?
Well, when I was reading the Gospel, I was also thinking of another word that popped out.
Gate was one. And Voice was the other one. In order to get from here to there, we have to listen to a voice.
Now. We seem to be hardwired to do this in most other contexts.
When we drive in a car, we quickly put our phone in and we kind of say, we got we’re going to go.
And we start to listen to our customized voice, usually like in some type of British accent, telling us to go here and turn here and do that.
And we typically listen to our GPS without any type of resistance.
We’re like, well, clearly Google knows more than I know about everything, so why should I even question?
So we are seem to be very well trained to listening to voices without questioning the voice.
But for bigger decisions in our life, like really what we want to do in order to make ourselves feel fulfilled.
We have a hard time listening to a voice.
The voice comes to us not from the outside, though, and this perhaps is the great fallacy as to why we have a hard time listening,
because we think we’re supposed to listen to the voice somehow when we walk into a church and somehow God will speak to us in some miraculous way,
or if we somehow just get really deep in prayer, God will reveal something to us in our mind.
Now, that is true in a certain way, but I would say it goes a little bit further than just God, somewhere out there telling us what to do.
The voice is actually within.
Each one of us has a voice within us that’s telling us exactly what we need to do in order to be completely and utterly fulfilled in this life.
But here’s the deal. First off, I don’t think we believe that that there is a voice.
And secondly, if there is a voice, we don’t really trust it.
So we either don’t believe there’s a voice or we don’t trust that voice.
But the very fact that we’re breathing and we did not choose to be here.
Indicates that our purpose here is more than what we make of things on our own terms.
Someone had a hand in us being here, and it was more than just our parents.
That someone is the voice that’s right inside of us.
I’ve often said before that a lot of times the best way to hear the voice is
to think back upon what brought us great delight and joy in our early life.
Well, we were not actually so much concerned about exterior voices telling us what to do.
Before we really took seriously the words of wisdom from our parents and teachers and other mentors.
We took great delight in just listening to what we want to do, how we want to do it, when we want to do it.
And it wasn’t just simply being selfishly choosing things.
It was actually legitimately being rejoicing in the present moment and delighting in what we were partaking of.
As time goes on, our other outside voices cloud all that.
And we start trying to get thinking that we have to follow a certain type of path and we end up following a herd of sheep down different other roads.
This can ultimately be equated to what Jesus says as being the enemy or the evil one.
Not that any of us are doing intentionally things that are wrong or bad or evil, but we do things that seem to go with the flow.
And we follow the flow thinking, well, these are clear paths that equal success.
So therefore I should go and go to school and get this degree and study this type of work so that I can get this type of job.
And in order to make this type of money, in order to live in to this type of city and have this type of lifestyle,
there’s a set formula that we follow and we follow the sheep willingly in that set formula.
All fine and good until we end up at some point in our life thinking, What the heck am I doing?
What the heck am I doing?
I think that the better way for us as we’re older are to listen to the inner voice is simply to constantly ask ourselves the question, Why? Why am I doing what I’m doing? And usually we get to a place where we have an answer.
And the answer is, I do this because it allows me to live a life of comfort, security, financial security.
But to listen to the inner voice is to go even deeper.
Why do I want to be comfortable? Why do I want to be secure?
Why do I need money? Because comfort and security and money are all amazing and needed things, but they’re amazing and needed things for one purpose to take us deeper into our desires to know what we are made to do in this world.
They are a means to an end, not ends in themselves.
So how did you get from here to there is to listen deeply into understanding what does comfort,
security and money afford us to do and are we actually doing that?
Because that is listening to the inner voice. And that is saying yes to the gatekeeper, Jesus, who is with us, completely taking us from this point.
So that points. Of course, I sound maybe a little bit passionate about this because I know I’ve had to constantly do this in my own life.
You think as a priest, things are kind of set for you? You get ordained, you go to a parish.
You become a pastor. All that. And I knew personally that that was not me.
But that did not mean that I do not have a vocation to be a priest.
It just meant that that set path and following the sheep this way was not me listening to the inner voice.
And yes, I could feel like, well, that would put me on a path and not being secure or comfort or having a steady income.
But when you listen to the voice, you’re given what you need when you need it.
Because, you know, the one who’s leading you is no longer the sheep going this direction,
but God himself leading the sheep this direction, getting you from here to there.
So in this Good Shepherd Sunday, let’s think about what type of role do we have in our lives of listening to the inner voice, because that will get us an understanding of what type of role, the things that we value and treasure, comfort, security, money are propelling us and calling us to do.
To bring us true joy, true fulfillment in this world.
So that we’d be ever more ready to say yes to the Good Shepherd when he asks us to leave this world to the next. To go from here, to there.
May God bless you.